Practical Caravan's expert tests the lightweight Outdoor Revolution CompactAirLite 340 awning to see if it's tough enough for caravan holidays
Although they cost around twice the price of their traditional pole-and-sleeve Compactalite siblings, ‘AirFrame’ models today make up some 80% of Outdoor Revolution’s awning output. And the CompactAirLite range represents the firm’s top-spec line-up, mating tough construction with impressive lightness – this middle-sized version weighs in at just 18.5kg. The pack size is 85cm x 40cm x 45cm and once it's up, the awning measures 2.5m x 3.4m.
Also in the same range is the CompactAirLite 420, which costs £899.99, and the CompactAirLite 280, priced at £779.99.
At first glance the CompactAirLite 340's material feels a little flimsy simply because it is so light, but the 420-denier Acrylix fabric is reinforced with a double ripstop pattern. Outdoor Revolution claims that it’s the strongest of any inflatable awning, and this construction method should ensure that, if it does rip, any tear shouldn’t run. It has a Sun Pro UV coating to prevent fading, plus waterproof covers for the zips, and boasts an impressive 6000mm hydrostatic head.
Around the base are flaps that can be left out to aid rainwater run-off, or folded in to create a seal beneath the optional carpet. Opt for the latter, however, and there’s no stitched edge to prevent water running beneath.
Intelligent technology makes this awning stand out from the crowd. The flush-fitting ‘Dynamic Speed Valves’ are located at the base of each beam. They operate using a simple push-on/off system, and the beams inflate quickly once the double-action hand-pump is locked to the valve. There’s no pressure gauge; instead, you pump until you feel resistance. The ‘Intelligent Frame’ does the rest, with a relief valve to release surplus air and prevent damage from over- inflation. Outdoor Revolution is so confident about this system that it offers a lifetime guarantee for the beam.
The awning is supplied with a draught skirt, a mixture of pegs, some fairly slender storm straps and two roof beams. The maker claims that no further beams are needed, but should you want additional reassurance you can buy more in packs of two.
Once pitched, this awning – with only one central support – offers a large amount of glazing, which is heavily tinted to reduce glare and add privacy. It’s bright and light inside, thanks to triangular rooflights, and the pale ceiling is designed to deflect the worst of the sun’s heat. Plenty of vents should also help here, and reduce condensation.
There are extra-wide doors, and the zip-in curtains can be rolled back, as can the doors.
The optional extras available for this awning are an air tube kit, priced from £49.99, rear pad poles at £16.99, an inner tent for £59.99, so that you can sleep in the awning, an annexe at £219.99 and a Liteweave carpet priced from £35.99.
The main selling points for the CompactAirLite 340 are that it is exceptionally light and it's made from tough double ripstop fabric. On top of that, it has quick-release air valves and an ‘Intelligent Frame’ to prevent you from over-inflating the 'poles'. It also comes with a lifetime guarantee from Outdoor Revolution.
For comparison, check out the other Practical Caravan awning reviews. If you like inflatable awnings, it's worth reading our expert's views on the Westfield Easy Air 350, costing just £300, and the Vango Varkala 420, which costs £725.
Specs and Layout
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Once dismissed as a fad, inflatable awnings will certainly be here to stay if this tough yet lightweight offering is anything to go by. Though it’s not the cheapest on the market, the CompactAirLite 340 awning feels sturdily put together; its light weight should appeal to caravanners looking to make the most of their van’s payload, too.
- Feels bright and airy inside
- Extensive glazing, so it could get warm